Building Brand Authenticity
All brands are created with some type of purpose (self-serving, or otherwise), but successful brands build on that purpose and align it with their true values, embedding it across every marketing touchpoint. They never deviate from it, but instead leverage what they stand for to diversify, expand, and succeed.
It’s not enough to create a product hoping that people will flock to it, understand it, hit add to cart, and be done with it. No questions asked. This rarely happens, and if it does — you’re onto a good thing. That initial rush will likely be fleeting if another competitor swoops in with the same product at a better price. Your values count and will be your point of difference.
Let’s take eco-retail brand, Allbirds. They design and sell shoes and socks. But are so much more than a footwear brand.
Because their story is less about what they sell, and more about changing the way we think about what we buy.
Its founders even encouraged Amazon, who knocked off their designs and sold them at a third of the price to “please steal our approach to sustainability”.
While throwing shade (and maybe a lawsuit) at a trillion-dollar company would’ve felt pretty good, being the bigger brand, in an ethical sense, with values you can stand behind, is much easier to maintain and market long-term. Allbirds can capitalise on what bigger conglomerates do, and don’t do, to propel their values further.
“Customers value companies that are mindful of the planet and profits. We believe the most powerful businesses in the world should lead on these issues and will be rewarded for doing so. Help us get better, together.” — Allbirds
It’s naive to think that everyone will look past a pair of lookalike woollen sneakers on Amazon and choose Allbirds every time. They won’t. But, will they tell their friends about their inferior purchase? Will they be a repeat customer and an advocate for the brand long-term? Will they sign up to their mailing list or engage with the brand on social media because they genuinely want to know more about what they're doing and what else they’re making? Probably not. The likelihood is they will they move on to the next cheaper knock-off when the soles wear out.
Amazon wins on price, but this a precarious value proposition to rest on (though they’ve done pretty well thus far) for most businesses with less deep pockets. It’s shallow and can be compromised.
So, how do you do authenticity right?
Be genuine. Have a solid value proposition. Refer back to it when developing marketing strategies, communications and campaigns. Evolve it. Grow it. Ask yourself why do we exist? What problem do we solve? Brands like Allbirds empower their customers with callouts like ‘You help us be better.’ They put the onus on the customer to be their success story when they make a purchase. Most recently the brand introduced a running shoe, expanding its customer base and solving another problem: “I want sneakers I can run in, that are also eco-friendly”. And they’re well aware of the niche market that only buys ‘for good’. An eco-conscious consumer base that is highly vocal, and growing.
It begins with your story and your reason for ‘being’. This doesn’t necessarily have to be for the good of others or the planet, but it does need to be authentic. If you try to be something you’re not, or create a new brand value that never existed, and doesn’t align with your core product or service, it’s bound to backfire.
Also, make sure your values don’t just exist within your products but extend to the team that markets and sells those products. If you run a wellness business but your employees are overworked and stressed with zero work/life balance, this devalues your brand internally. If you are a planet-friendly brand that doesn’t have a recycling program in place at your head office, again, the authenticity of your brand is seriously undermined.
True values are powerful. They can help shape how you market your product, talk to your customers, and inspire your employees. If your team lives and breathes those values, you’ll have a healthier brand long-term, and the hard sell won’t feel so forced.